The Day of Pentecost

Ezekiel 37:1-14

bulletThere are four great visions in Ezekiel:  a) the call vision in chs. 1-3; b) the vision of the corruption of the temple and its destruction in chs. 8-11; c) the vision of the valley of the dry bones in 37:1-14; d) the vision of the restored land and temple in chs. 40-48.
bulletIt is generally agreed that the resurrection motif in Ezekiel 37 deals not with individual resurrection of dead persons, but with the recreation and reconstitution of Israel after the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple and the exile to Babylon.  The pericope speaks of creation, resurrection, and Exodus (bringing up from graves leads to bringing back to the land)--all of which can only be accomplished by divine intervention.
bulletThere are three uses of the recognition formula (You shall know that I am Yahweh) in this passage--vv 6, 13, 14.  The ultimate purpose of divine actions in Ezekiel is not just judgment or not even deliverance, but that those who experience these events will come to know and acknowledge Yahweh.
bulletThe bones in the valley were both many and dry--the destruction was widespread and Israel was indeed "dead."  Although the bones, sinews, and flesh come together, there was no breath in them.  This distinction between making the body and breathing life into it recalls the creation account in Genesis 2.  God's presence is shown by the rattling earthquake (a typical accompanying phenomenon with theophany) and the breath or spirit of God.
bulletThis pericope comes in response to the people's complaint:  "Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost."  Note that twice God utters an endearing "O my people." (vv. 12, 13)
bulletThe last verse of this pericope celebrates the sure connection between God's promise and God's fulfillment of promise--I have spoken and I will act!

The psalm for the day is Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

The Holy Trinity

Isaiah 6:1-8

bulletIsaiah's call took place in the year Uzziah died, ca 735.  Uzziah and his contemporary Jeroboam II in the northern kingdom reigned over a time of great, but unequal prosperity.  Social abuses are criticized by Amos in the north and Isaiah in the south.
bulletIsaiah's vision takes him to Yahweh's heavenly temple.  The deity was surrounded by six-winged seraphs: one pair was used to cover their faces and one pair to cover their feet = genitals.  With one pair they flew.
bulletThe antiphonal heavenly choir affirmed two things about Yahweh:  1. Yahweh is completely separate/transcendent (holy); the fullness of the world is God's "glory."  "Holy" is what God is in Godself; what we see of God is called God's glory.
bulletIsaiah confesses his and the people's uncleanness (note that he does not have a "holier than thou" attitude).  Their lips are unclean because of what they have eaten or what they have said.  Isaiah is aware of this uncleanness because he has seen Yahweh.
bulletIn vv 6-7 a seraph takes a hot coal from the heavenly altar and cauterizes Isaiah's lips.  He is thereby assured of forgiveness.
bulletIn the midst of the heavenly council Yahweh asks who will go for "us" (the members of the heavenly council).  Isaiah responds, "Here am I, send me."

The psalm for the day is Psalm 29

2nd Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 3:8-15

bulletThis passage describes the consequences of the fall of Adam and Eve. The previous close relationship between humans and God has been spoiled, and the couple hides themselves when God appears.
bulletAdam offers a lame excuse for his hiding, noting that he was naked. God immediately sees the connection between their eating the forbidden fruit and their sense of nakedness.
bulletVerse 12 has Adam being blasphemous and chauvinistic in one sentence! It was the woman whom you (God) gave me that caused all this trouble.
bulletIn v. 13 Eve also attempts to pass the buck, blaming her sin on the snake.
bulletGod curses the snake in vv 14-15. Snakes subsequently will crawl on their bellies, and there will be perpetual hostility between snakes and people. Humans will try to crush the heads of snakes, and snakes will try to inject their venom into human heels.
bulletVerses 16-19, not included in the lectionary, describe the curses of woman and man. Note that the curse on woman is not part of the natural order. Women were not created to be ruled by men! The effect of this curse in any case has been removed in Christ.

Semi-Continuous Readings

1 Samuel 8:4-11 (12-15) 16-20

bulletChapters 8-12 in 1 Samuel deal with the controversy involving the inauguration of kingship in Israel. There are positive and negative views of kingship in these chapters.
bulletSamuel's sons were corrupt judges and therefore not appropriate successors to Samuel. The people note Samuel's age and ask for a king to rule over them.
bulletSamuel was angered by this request, but when he prayed about this, God directed Samuel to follow the people's wishes. God adds that they had not rejected Samuel but God himself. This continues a pattern of behavior that had been going on since the Exodus. Samuel is to warn the people about the down side of having a king.
bulletVerses 12-15, included only in parentheses, note that kings will tax people and force them to work on state projects. This shows grass roots opposition to kingship. Similar charges are made in vv. 16-17.
bulletGod warns that when the people later complain about such oppressive royal behavior he will not listen to them.
bulletThe people blithely reject the warning of Samuel. They want to be like the nations and have a king to lead their army.
bulletHistorically, Israel needed a stronger central government to fend off the Philistines. Political choices offer force us into compromises or even immoral behavior. How might that apply to current life in the United States?

The psalm for the day is Psalm 130

3rd Sunday after Pentecost

Ezekiel 17:22-24

bulletThis passage is a reversal of 17:3-6. In that passage a great eagle (=Nebuchadnezzar) takes the topmost shoot of a cedar (King Jehoiachin) into exile. Nebuchadnezzar installs a seed from the land (King Zedekiah) as king. Zedekiah flourished as a vine and was at first loyal to Nebuchadnezzar. But Zedekiah rebelled and stretched out his roots in rebellion to another eagle (Pharaoh Psammetichus II).
bulletIn 17:22-24 God, instead of an eagle, promises that he will plant a cedar tree (that is, a new king) in Israel. This cedar will be planted on a high and lofty mountain (Jerusalem). Under this fruitful tree, every kind of bird will live, that is, every nation will be loyal to the new king. All the other trees (the other nations) shall know (that is, acknowledge) that I am Yahweh. Yahweh brings low haughty or green  trees and raises up low or dry trees.  Cf. the Song of Hannah in 1 Sam 2:7 (Yahweh makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts) and the Magnificat (Luke 1:52:53).. Yahweh always fulfills his word: I Yahweh have spoken; I will accomplish it.

Semi-Continuous Readings

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13

bulletThis pericope follows 1 Sam 15:1-33 where Saul is rejected as king because Saul had taken spoil from the Amalekites in his battle against them, and he had preserved their king Agag alive.
bulletSamuel was sent by Yahweh to anoint secretly one of the sons of Jesse as king. From Saul’s point of view this would be treason.
bulletSeven sons of Jesse are rejected because Yahweh does not look at their outer appearance but at their heart. David, the eighth son, is brought in and anointed as the person  Yahweh has chosen. (In 1 Chr 2:13-15: David is the seventh son of Jesse)
bulletThis anointing of David connotes Yahweh’s loyalty to David; David is also later anointed by Judah and by the northern tribes in 2 Samuel 2 and 5.
bulletDavid is the last king who has the gift of the spirit; the rest became king because their father was king
bulletSermon starters: God finds leadership qualities in unlikely persons (David was a shepherd, a youth; David’s great grandmother was a Moabite); the last shall be first; election is for service; confusing of appearance and reality—Yahweh looks at the heart; we often judge by appearances.

The Psalm for the day is Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15.

4th Sunday after Pentecost

Job 38:1-11

bulletAfter the long discussion between Job and his "friends" and the soporific words of Elihu in chs. 32-37, we finally arrive at the divine speeches, which many people believe are at the heart of the message of Job.  The response to the question of suffering, however, is not direct.  Many readers are frustrated, even angered by the seeming irrelevance of God's response.  God's power had never been in question.  It is not Job's humanity that is questioned, but his lack of wisdom (v. 2).
bulletYahweh confronts Job and asks him whether he was present at creation and whether he understands the power and wisdom of God.  The name Yahweh is only used in the divine speeches and in the prose prologue and epilogue.   
bulletThe picture of the earth is that of a flat disk resting on underground pillars or mountains, or it is a great building that God constructs.  God's creative acts were accompanied by cheers and celebrations by members of the divine council.
bulletIn vv. 8-11 God raises the question of the sea, which in the Canaanite world was an unruly deity.  God was able to keep the dangerous sea within bounds.  The sea could break out if it were not contained.  God is the midwife who gives birth to the sea.  Carol Newsom writes:  "Far from being a hostile, alien power [the sea] is associated with the vigor of new life, and the restraints placed upon it are associated with nurture and protection."  and:  "God not only has to persuade Job of the fundamental reliability of the structures of creation, but also simultaneously has to persuade him to recognize the chaotic as a part of the design of creation."
bulletThis divine speech raises the possibility that not everything is explained by cause and effect or the doctrine of retribution.  If Job cannot understand creation, it is not surprising that he can't understand something like innocent suffering.
bulletThe second divine speech, beginning in ch. 40, presents God as vulnerable, also struggling with questions of evil.  God is able to contain Behemoth and Leviathan, but not able (yet) to fully master them.

Semi-Continuous Readings

1 Samuel 17 [1a, 4-11, 19-23] 32-49 

bulletThe bracketed verses introduce the contest between David and Goliath, a giant who was almost 10’ tall. Goliath challenges the Israelite army to provide a man to       fight him. The loser’s army will become servants to the winner’s army. Jesse sends David with food to his brothers. David hears Goliath’s challenge.
bulletDavid offers to fight Goliath, but Saul points out that David is only a boy.
bulletAs a shepherd, David has been able to fend off and kill lions and bears! This uncircumcised Philistine, who has defied the armies of God, will experience the same    fate.
bulletDavid: Yahweh who saved me from animal dangers in the past will save me from this Philistine.
bulletSaul: Go, and may Yahweh be with you!
bulletDavid unable to use Saul’s armor or weapons. He takes his slingshot and five smooth stones.
bulletTrash talk between Goliath and David. Yahweh will give Goliath and the Philistine army into David’s hands. David trusts in Yahweh.
bulletDavid fells Goliath with one shot to his forehead.
bulletThe lectionary omits David’s cutting off of Goliath’s head and taking it to Jerusalem, and the Israelite routing of the Philistine army.
bulletSermon starters: God is for the underdog. Are the odds against us ever overwhelming? God’s subversion of power. Cf. the Berlin wall and Apartheid. David shows opposition to evil so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, v. 46

The psalm for the day is Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32

5th Sunday after Pentecost

Lamentations 3:22-33

bulletLamentations was written in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE.  Chapters 1-4 are in acrostic form.  That is, every verse begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  In chapter 3, three verses begin with aleph, three with beth, etc.  The laments express sorrow, anger, and pain, but the section assigned for this Sunday brims with hope.
bulletGod's loyalty and motherly mercies never come to an end.  Better yet, they are new and fresh each morning (v. 23).  The poet expects  mercy to come like the rising of the sun.  One waits quietly for God's victory on my behalf--usually translated "salvation."
bulletThere are a number of "faith" words in this pericope.  I will hope in God, v. 24; those who wait for God, and the person who seeks God, v. 25.
bulletVerses 27-30 urge people to submit patiently to suffering and to accept it as God's punishment.  This is a text to argue with.  When is this good advice?  When does it sound like Job's "friends"?
bulletPart of the argument comes within the text!  Yahweh will not reject forever, v. 31.  Yahweh does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone, v. 33.The bottom line is the abundance of God's loyalty (my substitute translation for "steadfast love").  God's love wins out over God's wrath!

 

Semi-Continuous Readings

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27 

bullet2 Samuel 1 provides an alternate (false?) account of how Saul died. Saul begged an Amalekite to kill him whereas in 1 Samuel 31 Saul was a suicide.
bulletThe Amalekite brings Saul’s crown to David.
bulletDavid mourns Saul’s death and executes the Amalekite for lifting up his hand against the anointed of Yahweh.
bulletDavid laments for Saul and Jonathan, praising their prowess in war, and lamenting their death in battle. How the mighty have fallen!
bulletYour love to me, Joanathn, was wonderful, passing the love of women.
bulletSermon starters: David’s loyalty and grief overcame his ambition and self-interest. It is important to sing publicly of our hurts as it is to sing of our triumphs.  The church is a place where human loss can be voiced. Jonathan’s love for David was expressed by his giving up a claim to the throne (1 Sam 18:4). The depth of human friendship.

The Psalm for the day is Psalm 30

6th Sunday after Pentecost

Ezekiel 2:1-5

bulletThis pericope is part of the call narrative of the prophet.  Chapter 1 was a fantastic theophany that showed that God was really there, where Ezekiel was, in Babylon.
bulletThe prophet Ezekiel is usually addressed by God as "mortal" (son of man), emphasizing the gap between himself and God.  The name Ezekiel actually appears only in 1:1 and 24:24.  Ezekiel is set on his feet since he had fallen on his face in 1:28.
bulletEzekiel is given a very difficult assignment.  He was called in 593, seven years before the destruction of Jerusalem, and his message from then until the fall was that Jerusalem had to be destroyed because of its sinfulness, described here as rebellion and transgression.  To the people Ezekiel is to deliver a series of divine oracles--Thus says Yahweh.
bulletSuccess is not the criterion of faithfulness.  Ezekiel is to deliver God's message and the people will at least know that a prophet has been among them.  This last line is a variation on a form that appears some 90 times in Ezekiel:  They will know that I am Yahweh.  It appears in three contexts:  a.  after words of judgment; b. after oracles against the nations; and c. after words of hope.  The final goal in all of God's interactions with humanity is the recognition of his lordship.

Semi-Continuous Readings

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 

bulletThe people of Judah had anointed David at Hebron 2 Sam 2:4.
bulletNow the northern tribes of Israel also anoint David at Hebron. David had led the army of Israel during Saul’s reign and Yahweh had said to him, “You shall be ruler over Israel.” Cf. 2 Samuel 7.
bulletDavid made a covenant with the northern tribes.
bulletDavid captures Jerusalem and names it the City of David.
bulletYahweh was with David, leading to his greatness.
bulletSermon starters: God keeps his promises as David becomes king. A leader/politician is a shepherd of the people (v 2). Cf. John 10:11 I am the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. The presence of God with us as empowerment. What’s in a name like the City of David or Jerusalem?       The name of the city shall be “Yahweh is there” (Ezekiel 48:35). You (Jerusalem) shall be called My Delight is in her (Hephzibah; Isa 62:4)

The psalm for the day is Psalm 123

7th Sunday after Pentecost

Amos 7:7-15

bulletAmos 7:1-9; 8:1-3; and 9:1-4 are a series of five visions seen by the prophet.  Amos 7:10-17 describes his famous confrontation with Amaziah at the sanctuary at Bethel.  This week's pericope includes the third vision and the first five verses of the Amaziah story.  This omits Amos's strong words of judgment against Amaziah, which indicate the dire consequences of the government trying to muzzle prophetic critique.  Amaziah indicated the land was not able to bear all of the prophet's words (7:10); apparently they were too much for the committee that picked this pericope too.
bulletIn the first two visions, the prophet intercedes when he is shown the impending judgment:  forgive, I beg you (v. 2) and cease, I beg you (v. 5).  In both cases Yahweh responded positively to this intercession and did not carry out the punishment.
bulletThe third vision is traditionally understood to deal with a plumbline, but the other four visions all deal with depictions of Yahweh's judgment.  I favor those who believe that the word translated plumbline should actually be rendered "tin"!.  Copper and tin together made bronze, the metal of choice for weaponry in antiquity.  Hence I believe Amos saw Yahweh with a big heap of tin with tin also in his hands.  Yahweh is readying a war against Israel and stockpiling a metal of mass destruction.  Note that the prophet makes no intercession in visions 3-5--Israel's sin has advanced too far.
bulletVerse 9 (cf. also v. 17) uses an unusual name for the people--"Isaac."  This designation appears only here in the Bible.  Verse also contains a correction of v. 11, which threatened that Jeroboam would die by the sword.  This king, Jeroboam II, actually died in his bed.  V. 9 therefore states that violence would be perpetuated on the house or descendants of Jeroboam.
bulletIn v. 10, Amaziah the priest reports to Jeroboam that Amos is a conspirator who cannot be tolerated.  His intolerable words threatened the king with death and the people with exile.
bulletVerses 12-13 report Amaziah's threat to Amos.  He told Amos to flee to Judah and earn his living there.  He had nothing against Amos making a living by prophecy--just not here and not now!  Bethel was the king's sanctuary.  No critical words are allowed here!
bulletAmos's reply comes in vv. 14-17 (unfortunately truncated as noted above).  The tense of the sentences in v. 14 is hotly debated.  Did Amos say I am not a prophet or I was not a prophet (but now I am)?  In any case his authority lay not in the title prophet, but in the fact that Yahweh had chosen him to prophesy against Israel.  Amos had been a worker-prophet:  a cowboy and a dresser of sycamore trees.  He wasn't into prophesying because of the money!
bulletVerses 16-17, not included in the pericope, are a divine oracle.  Amaziah had forbidden Amos to prophesy against Israel.   His second command, conventionally translated as "don't preach against the house of Isaac" should be translated as "don't drool against the house of Isaac."  This indicates Amaziah's understanding that prophets like Amos were ecstatics who often went into a frenzy when they preached. 
bulletVerse 17 is the announcement of judgment by Amos against Amaziah.  There are four words against him indicating that his wife will be shamed, his children killed, his land lost, and--most degrading for a priest--he himself would die in exile, in an unclean land.  Oh, by the way, the prophet adds, Israel will go into exile, repeating what Amaziah had charged him with saying in v. 11.
bulletI've often said that I would not want Amos as my pastor.  He offered the people little or no hope and made a blanket charge against Israel, with no distinction in punishment between the ring leaders and the victims.  Still, he is a model of a passionate concern for justice.  Pastors who preach on this text may understand why the pericope pickers omitted v. 17--it is very rough--but they should not tone down their own passion for justice.

Semi-Continuous Readings

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 

bulletDavid brings up the ark from Baale-judah (Kiriath-jearim) to Jerusalem
bulletVv 6-12a Uzzah touches the ark and is killed for it. David parked the ark at the home of Obed-edom the Gittite for three months. Yahweh blessed the house of Obed-edom for harboring the ark.
bulletDavid offers sacrifices and dances before the ark.
bulletMichal despises the leaping and dancing David.
bulletThe ark placed in David’s tent.
bulletDavid began dynastic kingship but he also affirmed tradition by his loyalty to the ark
bulletDavid blesses the people and distributes food to them.
bulletVv 20-23 Michal confronts David for his lewd dancing. David says he was dancing before Yahweh who had made him king instead of Michal’s father Saul.
bulletSermon staters: Did David’s dancing recognize and honor the power of Yahweh; or was he manipulating a religious symbol (the ark) to enhance his own power?   Was the death of Uzzah unfair, or do we take the holy too lightly?  What is the relationship between tradition and new insights?

The psalm for the day is Psalm 85:8-13.

8th Sunday after Pentecost

Jeremiah 23:1-6

bulletVerses 1-4 have a judgment oracle against unfaithful rulers (shepherds) and a promise that God will raise up faithful rulers (shepherds).
bulletThe shepherds are criticized for scattering God's sheep and not caring for them.  Just as they have not attended to the sheep, God will attend to (=punish) them.
bulletVerse 3 is God's promise to bring Israel back from exile.  On their return they will be fruitful and multiply, living up to the command/promise given at creation:  Be fruitful and multiply. 
bulletVerses 5-6 are a messianic promise.  The term "righteous branch" might also be translated "legitimate branch," hinting that the present puppet king Zedekiah is illegitimate in the prophet's eyes.  He shall rule as king and deal wisely--again the opposite of what Zedekiah is and does.  Kings were expected to defend the public good--execute justice and righteousness.
bulletHe will be king over a reunited Israel = Judah and Israel.  To mark his new status he will be given a new name:  The Lord is our righteousness, or better:  Yahweh is the source of our vindication.  In other words, the messiah's name indicates where the real hope lies--in God.  Yahweh is the source of our vindication = Yahweh zidqenu in Hebrew.  These two words are in reverse order from the elements in the name Zedekiah = zidqi yahu.  In other words, again, the messiah will be the direct opposite of Zedekiah.   

Semi-Continuous Readings

2 Samuel 7:1-14a 

bulletDavid plans to build a house for the ark, which is now placed in a tent. Nathan gives his initial approval to the building project.
bulletYahweh seems content to move about in a tent or tabernacle. “I never asked anyone to build me a house.”
bulletYahweh reminds David how he has chosen him and how he has been with him continuously.
bulletYahweh promises David honor, and he promises peace for the people.
bulletYahweh promises David a house, that is, a dynasty.
bulletYahweh promises David an heir, who will replace him on the throne. This heir will build a house for Yahweh. Is Yahweh against a temple, or only a temple built by David?
bulletYahweh will be in a father/son relationship with David’s heir.
bulletVv 14b-16 This son may err and be punished, but Yahweh’s steadfast love will not be taken from him.
bulletSermon starters; The promise to David leads to the promise of the Messiah, a promise we Christians see fulfilled in Jesus. The promise to David also had political repercussions as David’s heirs used it to solidify their power. What is the importance of the buildings in which we worship? Does God love us unconditionally?

The psalm for the day is Psalm 23.

9th Sunday after Pentecost 18

2 Kings 4:42-44

bulletThe OT reading is chosen with any eye on John 6:1-21, the feeding of the 5,000.   Note that readings from John 6 appear for five Sundays in a row.
bulletNote also that miracles appear primarily at three points in the Bible--the Exodus from Egypt, the Elijah and Elisha stories, and the ministry of Jesus and the early church.  Miracles have a way of saying:  something important is happening here!
bulletThe location of Baal-shalishah is uncertain.  It seems to have been a very productive location even during a famine.
bulletOne of Elisha's servants doubts that twenty loaves of barley is enough to feed 100 people.  Elisha, however, trusts the promise of Yahweh and overrules his servant.  The miracle vindicates Elisha's trust.  The figures are modest in comparison with the feeding of the 5,000. 

Semi-Continuous Readings

2 Samuel 11:1-15 

bulletWhile David stayed home and womanized, the army of Israel risked its neck on the battlefield.
bulletDavid sees a woman bathing and sends for her.
bulletBathsheba was just emerging from her period. Hence she was not pregnant from Uriah and she was in the fertile part of her cycle.
bulletThe only thing Bathsheba says in these two chapters is “I’m pregnant.”
bulletDavid brings Uriah home on furlough in the hopes of making him think he was the father of Bathsheba’s child.
bulletUriah spends two nights at the king’s house. His reason: when the ark of Yahweh is deployed in battle, soldiers are forbidden to have sex. That scruple had not   bothered David at all.
bulletDavid decides to have Uriah killed in battle so that he can marry his widow. Uriah carries his own death sentence back with him to the front.
bulletSermon starters: The difference in power and status between David and Bathsheba may have given Bathsheba few options. Covering up of one sin leads to        another. Was David cut a little slack in not being executed? Uriah as a quiet and tragic hero. Compare the silent Bathsheba with her loquaciousness in                              1 Kings 1-2. Is sex the greatest sin? David did what was right in the sight of Yahweh and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days                   of his life 1 Kgs 15:5 (except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite!)

The psalm for the day is Psalm 145:10-18

10th Sunday after Pentecost

Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15

bulletThis pericope is part of the "murmuring tradition" in Exodus, in which people who had experienced the Exodus complained that the good old days of slavery in Egypt were better.
bulletNote that the complaint is against Moses and Aaron, the two leaders of the community.  The glory of Yahweh is a characteristic expression of the divine theophany in the priestly narrative.  God promises to send both meat (quail) and bread (manna).
bulletThe question "what is it" (manna) is answered by Moses:  "This is the bread that Yahweh has given you to eat."
bulletThis bread of heaven has an echo in our eucharistic bread.  The gospel for the day continues the reading from John 6, the feeding of the 5,000.

Semi-Continuous Readings

2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a

bullet Bathsheba mourns for Uriah, and David takes her as his wife.
bulletThe parable of the rich man taking the ewe lamb of his poor neighbor.
bulletDavid: This man deserves to die! Nathan: You are the man!
bulletYahweh had given David much and would have been willing to give more.
bulletBecause of David’s sin with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah, he will face unending war and trouble within his own house.  Your “neigbor” (Absalom) will lie with your wives publicly.
bulletDavid confesses: I have sinned against Yahweh.
bulletVv 13b-25. David absolved, but the child dies (the normal punishment for adultery is that the man and woman are executed). David prayed fervently while the child was sick, but accepted its death as final and returns to a normal life. Solomon born.
bulletSermon starters: Are we able to speak truth to power as Nathan did? Do those who hold power hear our voices?  The importance of confessing our sin: I have sinned against Yahweh, and the importance of being absolved. Many medieval manuscripts leave a gap after David’s confession in 13a, which allowed for the recital of Psalm 51. This man deserves to die 12:5; You shall not die v 13

The psalm for the day is Psalm 78:23-29.

11th Sunday after Pentecost

1 Kgs 19:4-8

bulletFor the third straight Sunday, the Gospel is from John 6 (in this case, vv. 35, 41-51)
bulletThe prophet Elijah is on a journey to Mt. Horeb (= Sinai), where Yahweh will appear in the still small voice (1 Kgs 19:12).  Elijah is fleeing for his life because of the vow of Jezebel to kill him (v. 2).  Elijah asked to die because he did not feel up to the task of leading Israel.
bulletAn angel woke him up and ordered him to eat a cake baked on hot stones and to drink water.  Cf. 1 Kgs 17:4-6.  He complied and fell asleep, only to have the angel awaken him a second time and repeat the order to eat because of the strenuous journey that lay ahead.
bulletElijah then went on a journey of forty days and forty nights (cf. Moses at Exod 24:18; 34:28), apparently with no additional food or drink along the way. 

Semi-Continuous Readings

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 

bullet2 Samuel 13-17 Absalom murders his brother Amnon for raping his sister Tamar. Absalom leads a revolt against David, who is forced to flee from Jerusalem.  Absalom sleeps with his father’s concubines publicly.
bulletDavid orders Joab to treat Absalom gently.
bulletA battle ensues in which 20,000 are killed.
bulletAbsalom’s hair gets entangled in an oak tree and he is left hanging.
bulletVv 10-14 Joab scolds a soldier for not killing Absalom and then does the job himself.
bulletV 15 10 armor-bearers of Joab also attack Absalom
bulletVv 16-30 Absalom buried. Two messengers dispatched to tell David. The first tells him all is well.
bulletThe second messenger tells David that Absalom has been killed.   The king grieves for Absalom.
bulletSermon starters: David’s grief over the tragic end of his wayward son. David is caught between his roles of father and king. David’s grief reflects his personal loss and recognition of his own sins. Absalom grasped for power just as David had. One thing that alienated Absalom was David’s cavalier response to the rape of Tamar (2 Sam 13:21 David would not punish Amnon because he loved him for he was his firstborn).

The psalm for the day is Psalm 34:1-8

12th Sunday after Pentecost 

Proverbs 9:1-6

bulletFor the fourth straight Sunday, the Gospel is from John 6 (in this case, vv. 51-58).
bulletThe Old Testament lesson speaks about personified wisdom, one of many passages contributing to the development of early Christology and an important "feminine side" of God.
bullet Personified wisdom invites her guests to a lush banquet.  Her invitation is open to all, but also encourages dramatic change:  forsake foolishness and live!  The slogan "God loves us unconditionally" is only half right.  God loves us with the expectation and hope that love will transform us into believing and righteous people.
bulletThemes adumbrated in this pericope:  Christ the wisdom of God; Eucharist (eat of my bread and drink of my wine); mission; openness to others.

Semi-Continuous Readings

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 

bulletDavid dies after a 40 year rule.
bulletSolomon offers sacrifices at Gibeon and Yahweh appears to him in a dream
bulletWhy does Solomon worship at a High Place?
bulletYou showed loyalty to David, who walked before you in uprightness of heart.
bulletGive your servant an understanding mind to govern your people
bulletBecause you did not ask for long life, riches, or the life of your enemies, I give you a wise and discerning mind and riches and honor. I will lengthen your life if you walk in my ways as David your father did.
bulletSermon starters: What do we pray for? Are our prayers self-centered? What is the Christian’s role in the public square? In what sense had David walked before  Yahweh in uprightness of heart?

The psalm for the day is Psalm 34:9-14.

13th Sunday after Pentecost

Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18

bulletFor the fifth straight Sunday, the Gospel is from John 6 (in this case vv. 56-69)
bulletThis is a portion of the second farewell speech of Joshua.  For the first see Joshua 23.
bulletThe first part of the pericope introduces the speech of Joshua.  The verses omitted in this pericope describe the history of the patriarchs and matriarchs, the Exodus from Egypt, and the gift of the land.
bulletIn vv. 14-18 Joshua draws the consequences of God's gracious and liberating actions.  Verse 14 admits that Israel's ancestors had worshipped gods other than Yahweh.  Joshua puts himself and his household on the line in v. 15.
bulletIn vv. 16-18 the people gladly join themselves to Joshua's strong confession. 

Semi-Continuous Readings

1 Kings 8:[1, 6, 10-11] 22-30, 41-43 

bulletThe dedication of Solomon’s temple.  Ark of covenant is placed in Holy of Holies
bulletThe glory of God was almost overwhelming vv 10-11
bulletSolomon’s prayer at the dedication (22-53)
bulletTrust that God’s promises will lead to concrete actions: you promised with your mouth and have fulfilled with your hand v 24
bulletThe incomparability of Yahweh, and his faithfulness to the covenant with David.
bulletWill God dwell on earth? Heaven cannot contain you, much less this temple.
bulletMay your eyes be open toward this house and may your hear the prayer of your servant.
bulletVv 31-53 Seven petitions are offered when various disasters strike. Verses 41-43 offer a welcome to any foreigner who wants to join the people of God.
bulletThe final petition predicts that Israel will go into exile (400 years later) and asks God to forgive the repentant people who turn to him. Was Solomon really so clear about the future or did a later writer update his prayer in vv. 46-53?
bulletSermon starters: The omnipresence of God and his particular presence in our lives and in the sacraments. Yahweh did not really live in the temple, but his name did. How do old cherished symbols like the ark bring holiness to our places of worship? God already sees and hears everything and yet we pray for God to open his eyes and ears.

The psalm for the day is Psalm 34:15-22

14th Sunday after Pentecost

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9

bulletThis portion of a sermon by Moses was originally intended to address the concerns of Israel in its exile.  Note especially the conclusion to the sermon in vv. 25-31 where loss of land is threatened, but where repentance is also promised.  God will not forget the covenant he made with Israel's ancestors.
bulletThe portion of the sermon included in this pericope is urgent, but not terribly specific in what it urges.  The statutes and ordinances follow in chapters 12-26:  centralization of the worship site; prohibition against other gods; etc.
bulletDeuteronomy advocates retribution theology--obedience will be followed by blessing (in the land) and disobedience will be followed by dire consequences, such as loss of the land.
bulletFollowing God is viewed as wisdom and as a witness to the nations (v. 6).  Yahweh and Israel are incomparable.  God is approachable in prayer and can be easily reached.  His statutes and ordinances are just--unlike those presumably of other nations and other gods.
bulletIsrael is to remember what it has seen in the Exodus and in the journey to Sinai, and is to teach these truths to the next generation.
bulletNote that vv. 21-24, not part of the pericope, indicate that Moses was barred from entering the land because Yahweh was angry with him because of Israel's sin.  Moses suffers as their substitute.  The merciful God (v. 31) is also a jealous God (v. 24). 

The psalm for the day is Psalm 15.

15th Sunday after Pentecost

Isaiah 35:4-7a

bulletThis passage enunciates themes very close to those in Second Isaiah (Isaiah 40-55).
bulletThe strong words of encouragement in v. 4 flow from the fact that God will appear in order to save.  The translation in the second half of v. 4 in NRSV needs correction.  Instead of vengeance and terrible recompense I would read:  He will come to exercise divine lordship, with God's own requital.  This sets up the last line of the verse:  God will come to save you!
bulletNote the social dimensions of the good news in vv. 5-6:  blind will see, lame will leap, the speechless will sing for joy.  God's salvation is for the whole person.   The gospel is Good News for our bad situations.
bulletVerse 7 gives this an environmental dimension.  The sere desert will be well watered;  the place where only wild animals roam will become luxuriant grass.  The pericope actually includes only the first half of the verse.
bulletWe have too often limited salvation only to the remission of sins.  God comes to address whatever keeps us short of the potentials of our created humanity.
bulletThe gospel for the day, Mark 7:24-37, is miracle stories with a social/physical dimension.  Jesus casts a demon out of the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman, who would not let Jesus go without obtaining a blessing.  In the second half of the lesson, Jesus cures a deaf and speechless man. Jesus fulfills the eschatological expectations present in Isaiah 35.

The psalm for the day is Psalm 146.

16th Sunday after Pentecost Lectionary 25

Isaiah 50:4-9a

bulletThis passage is the third of the Servant Songs in Second Isaiah.  The servant (whether a personified Israel or the prophet himself) speaks in the first person.
bulletVerses 4-5 present the servant as an attentive listener, who does not rebel against the message he receives.  His message to others is supportive, sustaining the weary with a word.
bulletVerse 6 shows that the servant has been persecuted--people have struck him on the back, pulled out the hair of his beard, and spat in his face.  This can be interpreted as the fate of the prophet, or it can symbolize what Israel experienced in the destruction of Jerusalem and its exile from the land.
bulletVerses 7-9a portray a defiant servant.  Because of God's help, the servant has not been disgraced, and in fact he challenges his opponents to contend with him.  Because of God's help, he knows he will be declared innocent.  Verse 9b is left out, apparently because it states that the servant's foes will be eaten up by moths.
bulletThe servant's role emphasizes one important response to suffering (of many).  That is, to trust God in spite of it all and receive God's vindication.  No wonder, that early Christians saw in Jesus' crucifixion such a steadfast trust in God followed by vindication in Christ's resurrection.  Not also that verse 10b continues this theme:  the servant walks in darkness yet trusts in the name of Yahweh. 
bulletThe Gospel, Mark 8:27-38, is the confession of Peter at Caesarea Philippi.  Note v. 31, which describes the suffering of the Son of Man and his ultimate vindication.

The psalm for the day is Psalm 116:1-9.

17th Sunday after Pentecost

Jer 11:18-20

bulletJeremiah contains a series of laments that are commonly known as his "confessions."  In them he brings his complaints about his vocation to God in frank and often angry outbursts.  He also finds reassurance in God's trustworthy promises.  See also 12:1-6; 15:10-21; 17:14-18; 18:18-23; 20:7-18.
bulletIn v. 18 Jeremiah claims that Yahweh had made known to him the evil schemings of his opponents.  These opponents seek his demise, hoping for his death and the eradication of his memory from the earth.
bulletVerse 20 expresses Jeremiah's strong faith in Yahweh, but it also contains his disturbing wish that Yahweh should punish his enemies appropriately for their misdeeds.  The good news about such a wish is that it shows Jeremiah trusted God enough to tell God exactly what was on his mind.
bulletVerses 21-23 are also part of this confession.  In an oracle, Yahweh responds to Jeremiah's complaint about his adversaries in his home town of Anathoth. They had forbidden Jeremiah to prophesy.  Yahweh promises swift judgment on these opponents.  Young men will die by the sword and their children will die by famine.  Both of these are images of the war that Babylon is about to wage on Judah.

The psalm for the day is Psalm 54

18th Sunday after Pentecost

Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29

bulletThe excerpts from Numbers 11 are part of the murmuring motif in the wilderness period.  There is a thin line between bringing one's complaint to God in faith (as by Jeremiah in last Sunday's lesson) and merely being a theological whiner.
bulletThe rabble rousers gripe about the boring manna they have to eat and long for the fish, vegetables, fruit, and spices they enjoyed (during their slavery) in Egypt.  Manna of course is a lot better than starvation!
bulletThese complaints call forth anger from Yahweh and Moses.  Like Jeremiah, Moses complains about his office as leader of Israel during the Exodus period.  In v. 12 Moses compares himself to a mother in his role as Israel's leader.  Moses finds himself unable to bear this burden.  If this is the way Yahweh is going to treat Moses, he would just as soon be put to death by Yahweh at once.  Won't Yahweh do that in his mercy?
bulletIn v. 16, Yahweh instructs Moses to delegate!  He is to pick seventy elders to assist him in his tasks.
bulletYahweh takes some of the spirit that was on Moses and puts it on the elders.  For the time being they carried on charismatic activities, that is, they prophesied. 
bulletMeanwhile two men named Eldad and Medad also got the spirit, even though they had not been chosen to assist Moses, and they also prophesied.  Joshua, the eventual successor to Moses, asks Moses to stop these unauthorized people.  Moses rebukes him for trying to control the spirit of Yahweh.  He wishes that all of God's children would become prophets!

The psalm for the day is Psalm 19:7-14

19th Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 2:18-24

bulletThis excerpt from the second creation story (commonly called J) tells of Yahweh's creation of a woman out of the man's rib after the man had been created from the dust of the ground at the beginning of the story.  In Genesis 1 (commonly attributed to P), God creates man and woman simultaneously.
bulletVerse 18 recognizes the need for human beings to live in friendship and community.  It is indeed not good for us to be alone/lonely.  God wants to create a helper.  Phyllis Trible pointed out some years ago that the verb help in the Old Testament is frequently used of God and therefore of the actions of a superior toward those who are inferior.  Hence we should not read subservience into this promise to create a helper.
bulletGod created various animals and birds out of the dust of the ground and brought them to the man, who named them, thus expressing (benevolent) rule over them.  But none of them qualified as an appropriate helper for the man.
bulletYahweh then put the man to sleep (cf. Gen 15:12) and took one of the man's ribs and built it into a woman.  This selection of bones may also indicate equality--woman was not built from the sole of the man's foot but from his side! 
bulletThe man recognizes the appropriateness of this creation--at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.  He gives her the name Woman because she was taken from Man.  In Hebrew the words sound alike--ishshah (woman) and ish (man), but they are actually linguistically unrelated to one another.
bulletVerse 24 expresses the mutuality and mystery of marriage--the two become one flesh.  The verse also says that because of the appropriateness of this relationship a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife.  Technically, this is not how marriage worked in ancient Israel.  Women left their families of origin and moved into the family of their husband.  But I suppose even when a man continues to live on the old homestead he still in a sense "leaves" his parents when he gets married.

The psalm for the day is Psalm 8

Amos 5:6-7, 10-15

bulletThe prophet urges the audience to seek Yahweh in v. 6 and announces that failure to do so will lead to dire consequences:  Yahweh will attack the house of Joseph (the northern kingdom, consisting primarily of the two Joseph tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh) like fire and burn up Bethel, its main temple city.  Not seeking Yahweh is evidenced in v. 7 by failure to practice justice.
bulletGates served as the "small claims court" in Israel.  According to v. 10 people hate the person who stands up for the right in the gate.  Verse 11 can be classified as a "frustration" oracle.  Injustice toward the poor will lead to frustrations--fine new houses that can't be lived in, and vineyards whose wine cannot be drunk.
bulletVerse 12 continues the indictment of Israel with its many sins, such as afflicting the innocent (= the righteous), taking bribes in order to pervert justice, and elbowing aside the poor.
bulletVerses 14-15 return to the admonitions to seek good, to love good, and to hate evil.  Yahweh the God of the heavenly armies will be with them IF the people seek the ethical life.  Right now people take God for granted and expect that God will be with them no matter what.  Yahweh's grace is not to be presumed upon.  God's freedom is shown in the words "it may be" in v. 15.  The prophet warns that repeated acts of injustice will not automatically lead to divine forgiveness.  Israel has already suffered consequences for their injustice--they are now only the remnant of Joseph.

The psalm for the day is Psalm 90:12-17.